Democrat Jason Kander is on the verge of what one newspaper calls an "astonishing upset" of Republican incumbent Roy Blunt in the race for a U.S. Senate seat from Missouri. The outcome of the race could help decide which party controls the Senate, beginning in January 2017.
A 127-page document called The Kander Memo, dated September 20 and distributed by a group of Missouri citizens to at least seven government oversight bodies, provides extensive evidence that Kander and his wife, Diana Kagan Kander, have violated multiple federal and state criminal laws. (The full Kander Memo is embedded at the end of this post.)
Less than one week ago, Kansas City Star columnist Steve Kraske, wrote that Kander stood "on the brink of an astonishing upset" of Blunt, who has held the Senate seat for six years and represented Missouri's 7th Congressional District for 14 years prior to that. Nate Silver, of fivethirtyeight.com, now projects Kander to win the race, with an almost 60 percent likelihood of victory.
Andrew Kreig, writing at the Justice-Integrity Project, puts the allegations against the Kanders into perspective:
A Kander victory in the Missouri Senate race over incumbent first-term Republican Sen. Roy Blunt has the potential to help deliver Senate control to Democrats, who now trail Republicans 46-54 (counting independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont in support of the Democratic caucus.
Therefore, the many serious new allegations against Kander and his wife . . . have both state and national importance.
Kreig notes that authors of The Kander Memo have "called on authorities and lawyers nationwide to investigate lawbreaking — and file class-action lawsuits to reimburse alleged fraud victims in every state from the actions described in the documents." Kreig sought comment from Jason and Diana Kander, and his campaign officials, but they did not respond to queries.
How serious could The Kander Memo prove to be? It raises questions about the ethical underpinnings of a campaign in perhaps the nation's most important Congressional race. The heavily sourced memo, which includes an appendix of more than 30 pages, focuses on two primary fund-raising efforts that it calls "ostensibly criminal schemes":
Fraud and The New York Times Bestseller List
Beginning in spring 2014, evidence shows the Kanders operated an Internet "crowdfunding" effort to raise online charitable donations. But the memo alleges the Kanders used the money, more than $31,000, to buy new-author Diana Kander's way onto The New York Times bestseller list. In fact, amazon.com promotes Ms. Kander's book, All In Startup: Launching a New Idea When Everything Is On the Line, as part of the prestigious New York Times lists, and the book is promoted as such at the author's Web site, dianakander.com.
How did this benefit the Kanders and Jason Kander's U.S. Senate campaign. From The Kander Memo:
The success of the Kander scheme has: (1) Provided the Kanders with a ruse to represent to the American public and Missouri voters that Diana Kander is "a New York Times Bestselling Author," when the truth is the Kanders used a deceptive scheme to raise money from the public in order to help Diana Kander buy her way onto those prestigious bestseller lists; (2) Empowered Diana Kander to break into the lucrative U.S. "Public-Speakers Circuit" so she can now pocket substantial speaker fees as a purported "New York Times Bestselling Author"; and (3) Enabled the Kanders to use the public contributions they collected from their Internet "crowdfunding" campaign in order to make the Kanders look . . . more prestigious and more accomplished, and to help Jason Kander win election to the United States Senate.
The plan, according to The Kander Memo, is built on inside knowledge about the publishing industry:
In 2014, when the Kanders embarked on this scheme, they calculated that if the wife of a U.S. Senate candidate was a "New York Times Bestselling Author," then this prestige could boost her husband's political campaign and help him win a U.S. Senate seat. It is a "dirty little secret" in the U.S. book-publishing industry that a new author can buy his or her way onto America's most prestigious bestseller lists. It is a scheme that costs between $150,000 and $300,000, depending on certain circumstances. The money is used to buy the author's new book in strategic, large-bulk units -- bulk purchases timed shortly after the new book is officially released.
Some people think if you spend your own money to buy your way onto a bestseller list, then it is not illegal. That's incorrect, but it's beside the point. By seeking to fund their scheme by soliciting online public donations via their "crowdsourcing" campaign, the Kanders scheme of 2014 clearly crosses the criminal line -- in fact, several criminal lines.
According to The Kander Memo, the book effort likely violated solicitation-registration and felony anti-fraud statutes in every U.S. jurisdiction -- federal and state. It also likely violated statutes in all 50 states that make it a crime to commit, or attempt to commit, theft by deceit. From the memo:
[This] is not only an audacious and shameless scheme, it is a patently criminal scheme . . . a "50-state crime spree."
Raise Your Hands For Kids?
Since fall 2014, according to the memo, Jason Kander has controlled a Missouri nonprofit corporation called "Raise Your Hands for Kids" (RYH4K). Kander and close accomplices directed this "kids" organization to serve as an advocacy group to promote a ballot initiative in Missouri also called Raise Your Hands for Kids. Kander and Co. collected more than $5 million in corporate and individual contributions -- including more than $2 million from individual Missourians.
What does this mean? The memo explains:
Because RYH4K is, in fact, a "candidate controlled" ballot measure committee (CCBMC) . . . , this allowed U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander, and accomplices, to treat [RYH4K] as candidate Kander's $5-million political "slush fund," to use as Kander deems best to further his political candidacy and personal ambition . . . .
This touches on issues that have concerned election experts for years. From The Kander Memo:
By controlling RYH4K, candidate Kander has contrived a scheme to solicit and collect corporate and individual donations . . . for a Missouri "public service" organization. Kander then converts those charitable donations into money used to help him win a U.S. Senate election -- in essence, transforming those charitable . . . donations into political donations. . . . This confirms the worst fears of several nonprofit experts who have, for two decades now, warned that political candidates have increasingly used, abused, and exploited nonprofit and charitable organizations for their own personal and political benefits.
What is the potential fallout from this? According to the memo, Kander's actions violate the Federal Election Campaign Act, 52 U.S. Code 30101 But the plot takes even more twists and turns. Authors of The Kander Memo allege that the candidate's associates are funneling donations from RYH4K into another nonprofit called "Alliance for Childhood Education" (ACE), which allegedly is controlled by a Kander ally in Johnson City, Kansas. It appears that RYH4K essentially has become a fund-raising arm of ACE.
Imagine all those Republicans in Missouri who donated their charitable dollars to RYH4K, only to later find out that their donations were transmorgrified into support for candidate Jason Kander's political campaign and efforts to defeat the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.
The Kander-Blunt race figures to remain in the spotlight right up until election day. But The Kander Memo suggests a darker story, maybe a more important story, is running beneath the surface.